President Donald Trump defended Saudi Arabia in an interview Tuesday, suggesting the wave of criticism the Middle Eastern kingdom has received over a missing Saudi journalist is premature.
“Here we go again with you know you’re guilty until proven innocent,” Trump told The Associated Press in an interview at the White House.
The AP’s report said Trump compared the accusations against Saudi Arabia, which stands accusing of killing Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, to sexual assault allegations against recently confirmed Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“I don’t like that,” Trump said. “We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh, and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”
Trump also said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was going ahead with a scheduled trip to Saudi Arabia for a conference, but that it could be canceled depending on the results of an investigation.
“I think we’ll also be guided by what other countries are doing,” Trump said.
A Turkish official told CNN on Tuesday that Khashoggi’s body was cut into pieces after he was killed two weeks ago at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
The disappearance of Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the Saudi government, has engendered wide-ranging criticism and prompted calls from members of both parties for some degree of punitive action toward Saudi Arabia.
Trump has hesitated to criticize the Saudi government since Khashoggi’s disappearance. In an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Trump bristled at the idea of cutting weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, and in comments on Monday, he touted a denial from the Saudi King and offered up the idea that “rogue killers” were involved.
He told AP on Tuesday that the “rogue killers” theory came from his “feeling” after speaking with Saudi leadership, but that King Salman had not used the term.
Trump’s reference to Kavanaugh in the AP interview followed public allegations that nearly derailed Kavanaugh’s nomination from Christine Blasey Ford, who alleged Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in their high school years. Kavanaugh denied her allegation before his successful confirmation by the Senate earlier this month.